Food Bank

 

English: Ryan Hobson joins Michael Ignatieff f...
English: Ryan Hobson joins Michael Ignatieff for food bank photo op. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

13 June 2013

At the park, I sat between Little Jake and Joy. I asked Joy, “How are you feeling today? Sick? Sore? Tired?”

“All of the above. Big Jake is coming over tonight.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Okay, I guess. He came over Monday. He’s quit drinking. He’s in a wheelchair.”

“Did you beat  the shit out of him?”

“No, maybe that will come tonight.”

“He phoned this morning, on Jacques’ phone. He asked to come over. I said, ‘I’m cooking chicken, will that be alright?’ What a stupid cow. I shouldn’t be feeding him after what he did to me.”

“I hope it goes okay.”

“I hope so too. This morning I got on the bus, put in my ticket, walked to the back and sat down. The driver yelled, ‘Hey lady!’ I didn’t know who he was talking to. ‘You, lady with the blue back pack, would you come to the front please?’ I look to see what color my backpack is — blue. So I walk to the front. He asked, ‘What’s in the bottle that you’re drinking?’ I said, ‘It’s bubble tea with ginger ale. You know, bubble tea? Usually it’s made with tea and sparkling water, but I use ginger ale.’ He said, ‘Okay, you can sit down.’

Little Jake said, “Didn’t he ask to smell it? The cops always ask to smell my bottle.”

“No, bus drivers don’t do that. They wouldn’t want their nose anywhere near my bottle.”

“I’ll have to remember that one.”

Mariah  said, “I went to the Food Bank today. I could only get a few things. They allowed me three cans: one of vegetables, one stew and one tuna. They also gave me a tiny plastic container of margarine and a few other items.”

“What kind of stew did you get?” asked Joy, “Is it the one that tastes like dog food — Gravy Train?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“I had to get there three hours before they opened, even then there was a line up. By the time I got in, there was hardly anything left.”

“Didn’t you get any meat or eggs?”

“When I had kids, they used to give me meat and eggs, but not as a single.”

Shakes asked, “Mariah, would you help me to get my groceries some day.”

“I can’t do it Friday, but maybe Saturday.”

“Saturday is fine. The doctor has me on a special diet.”

“Dennis, ” said Shakes, “you know me?”

‘Yes, I know you.”

“I know when it’s coming and I know when it’s going — right?”

“That’s right Shakes, you’re The Man.”

 

 

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Inuk In Hospital

Photograph of The Great Wall of China from 1907.
Photograph of The Great Wall of China from 1907. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

13 June 2013

I had left work and was heading for my bus stop. In his usual spot, in front of Starbucks was Craig. I handed him a Subway card. He asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s six thirty, Craig.”

“Oh, I thought it was a lot later. Thanks for the card, by the way.”

I walked further along the sidewalk and saw Bearded Bruce. He said, “I saw you coming, so I pulled out a piece of cardboard. Would you like to sit for a few minutes?”

“Sure, Bruce, I’m in no rush. It’s a beautiful evening for sitting outside.”

“I hate summer. It means I have to work three times as long for the same money.  I started at six this morning — I just get up, shower, brush my teeth and out the door. I worked three different spots today. Here it is thirteen hours later. I made forty dollars. In the winter I would have made that in three hours. Then, of course, I spent twenty-two dollars at Tim Horton’s for food, so that leaves me with eighteen, less the six-pack I bought.

“Do you know why I do this? Because I can get everything I need. In winter, if I need mitts,  someone gives me mitts. If I need a sleeping bag, someone will come along with a sleeping bag.  If I need a back pack, I’ll find a back pack. There aren’t too many days that I haven’t eaten. Now I have an apartment I don’t need to worry about sleeping outside.

“I was hoping you’d come along because I’ve got a bit of a conundrum.  Inuk and I;  we’re not so good right now. She’s in hospital. I love that woman, more than I’ve ever loved anybody in my life, I’d crawl over broken glass just to be near her, but she vexes me. The last time she was in hospital I visited her every night for three weeks. That takes a lot of time out of my day. When she got out she stayed at my place for two nights then took off. I didn’t see her for two weeks. Then one morning she appears in my spot, like nothing’s happened. I’ve always told her that if she ever heeded anything to give me a call. Well, Chuck came over yesterday. He said, ‘Inuk called. She wants you to visit her in hospital.’ I gave my word, so I have to go. I’ve just got two rules; follow them and we’ll never have any problems: don’t lie to me and don’t steal from me.

“Sure I lie to people on the street, and to the government, but to my friends I never lie, never steal. You can count on that.

“Anyway, like I said, I have this conundrum. Do I visit her or not. If I go there I’ll have to act all nice as if everything is alright between us, but it’s not. What I want to say is how pissed off I am about her disappearing like she did. She doesn’t deal well with confrontation. Me, I like to get things off my chest, then I’m done. We can be friends again. So, right now I’m just killing time, trying to decide what to do.”

Craig walked towards us. “Dennis, I hope this doesn’t offend you.” He shouted at Craig, “Have you eaten?”

I said, “I already gave him a card.”

Craig said, “Hi, I’m just going to go to Subway, then buy a few beer and head for the river. Will I see you later? I won’t be here tomorrow.”

“It’s okay, you go on your way. I’m leaving soon. Are you sure you’re going to eat?”

“Yeah, but will I see you tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, if you see me, you see me.”

Another man approached from the opposite direction. Bruce said, “Hey man. I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“Yeah, I’ve been away. You’re looking good.”

“I’ve put on a few pounds due to good eating,  if that’s what you mean. I’ve cut back on the booze.”

“Well, this is me on drugs.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Yeah, I’m hungry.”

“Take this Subway card and get something to eat. Don’t try to sell it to get more drugs.”

“Okay Bruce, I appreciate that. I’m going to go there right now.”

The man left.  Bruce said, “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s part Inuit, part native. He’s also schizophrenic. He hears voices. He spends every cent he has smoking crack. I’ve been there, that’s how I got into dealing, but I’m off it now. I still smoke weed. I can’t understand why I can go across the street, buy a bottle of scotch, drink it and act totally obnoxious, yet if I’m caught with less than thirty grams of weed, that’s only going to make me happy, I can be fined $1000 or 6 months in jail, or both.

“I hope you don’t mind that I gave your card away, It’s just that I hate to see somebody worse off than I am…  if I can help them.”

“I understand, Bruce.”

“Now, I know that Joy prefers Subway cards to Tim Horton’s, but they’re not as good. I’ll tell you why. For two Tim Horton’s cards and eighty-six cents I can buy a can of their coffee. I’ve been doing without my coffee lately. For one card and twenty-six cents I can buy their hash browns, a sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin, with a tall glass of milk. Besides that Subway is run by a bunch of ignorant immigrants. I can say that because I’m an immigrant.

“I went there , a few days ago, with my own card.  I’d filled it up the day before with twenty dollars.  I gave it to the guy, he put it through the machine and he said, “It shows that you only have one cent on this card.” I said, “That’s impossible, I just filled it up last night.” I wasn’t going to argue with this lout, so I went a couple of blocks to another Subway. I asked, “Can you tell me how much money is on this card?” The guy checked and said, “Twenty dollars.” Needless to say, I don’t go to the place down the street any more.

“The cards are a good idea, because it encourages people to eat, and that’s a good thing;  but they can take those same cards to Shark and he’ll give them five dollars — even trade.”

I said, “I don’t mind what people do with them. I want them have the opportunity to eat,  if they’re hungry;  but I don’t want to force anything on them.  It’s their choice.”

“So, I still have this conundrum with Inuk. I know I’m just putting it off, maybe until it’s too late to go. I’ll have another beer and think about it.

“I’ve been to twenty-three different countries, so far Canada is the one I prefer. With the charge of dealing on my record I can’t get a passport for seven years, but one day I’d like to visit Peru, because of the history, or China.

“In Canada there are far fewer fights. Where I grew up, near Glasgow, we’d go to the pub; not to drink, but to fight.  You’ve heard the Elton John song,  Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. That was us. I’m not afraid of anybody. I was brought up by an alcoholic dad who was six-foot four, weighed two hundred and sixty pounds. There’s nobody who could give a beating like he could.

The school yards were just as bad. There was always one group against another, Catholics against Protestants, city kids against country kids, it didn’t matter. I kept, for the most part, to myself. I hate bullies. I saw this one bully beating a smaller kid, so I stepped in. The bully went to hospital for three days. I was charged with assault and could have gone down for it, but my mom stood up for me, and the step-mom of the bully stood up for me. That was a welcome surprise. Anyway, instead of reform school, I was sent to an old folks home. I loved it there. This was the seventies. I was a pseudo hippy. The men would have all these war stories from the Second World War, the Korean War. I was reading about the Vietnam War, so we would have these intense discussions.

That was a good place for me. I still had my school work to do. I remember my auntie. If she saw I was daydreaming — I did that a lot — she’d knock me on the side of the skull with her fist. That really hurt. She’d say, “Wake up Brucie, pay attention!” When it came to write my exams I got really good marks. If I ever started daydreaming I’d think of that sharp knock on the skull.

“My mom was in a wheelchair. I was born at home with two mid-wives. I weighed thirteen pounds seven ounces and was a ‘blue baby’.

“I’m used to being around wheel chairs. There was this one guy around here who’d drive around in one of those motorized chairs. He’d bump into people, swear at them. I said to him, ‘Get out of that wheel chair and I’ll beat the shit out of you.’ I guess nobody had ever talked to him like that before. When he came back he gave me ten bucks.

I’d love to go to China. Do you know that they were writing in the third century BC. Their original alphabet was based on the tracks of birds. That was  before we’d  even defined the concept of  God that we believe, or don’t believe in  now. We were still running around, living in caves. They were building the Great Wall of China.  Hundreds of thousands, if not up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall. Every third son had to work on it for free. He still had his chores to do in the fields, but during the day he’d be shaping and placing stones for  that wall.  Do you know how long it is ? 5,500 miles. It’s one of the largest man-made structures in the world.

“Why was the Great Wall built?”

“To keep out the Manchus’  the Mongols and other warlike tribes from the north. Some Chinese guy, thinking he’d be rewarded with a high rank, led them through a secret passage way. As soon as they were on the other side of the wall they slit his throat and took over the country.”

Somebody rode by on a bicycle. Bruce yelled, “Hello Asshole!”

“Was that Chris?” I asked.

“Yeah, but ever since Weasel died I call him asshole. It’s because of something he said to me. He knew that Weasel and I were close friends. When I told him that he had died he said, ‘Good riddance! I never liked the guy anyway. I’m not going to his funeral.’

“I’d be a lot better off if I didn’t like people, or rather love them. I’ve had four close friends die this past year, five if you count Weasel’s dog Blackie. Every time it tears away a piece of my heart. Inuk nearly died during  her last time in hospital.  The infection is back.  She could die without me even seeing her. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.”

We caught the bus together and Bruce did get off at the stop for the Civic Hospital.

 

 

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Five Months Sober

 

homeless family L

 

12 June 2013

The park was welcoming today. The sun was shining the weather was warm and the regulars were sitting on the curb. “Shark, ” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“No, I don’t come here very much any more.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay. My feet hurt — that’s because of the HIV.”

“How is Irene?”

“This morning she was puking her guts out. It’s a reaction to the new medication. She hasn’t been outside since winter;  just doesn’t have the energy. There is always an excuse, ‘It’s too hot? It’s too early. It’s too cold.’ When she does invite me out with her, it’s evening, and I’m drunk by then. I keep telling her, “Let’s do our shopping in the morning when it’s cool and the crowds aren’t as large. I have to stop by Wal-Mart for groceries on my way home. I’ll be leaving shortly.”

This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...
This is a selfmade image from the english wikipedia. The photographer has uploaded it as GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Joy has been staying at Chuck’s place, just around the corner from me. She wouldn’t come over to our place because of me.  Irene didn’t want to go to Chuck’s place, so they didn’t get to see each other.”

Loretta came down the sidewalk and stopped to talk.

“Loretta, ” I said, “Shark and I were just discussing how complicated women are. They always invent new rules and forget to tell us about them.”

Loretta said, “Yeah, I can’t even figure myself out.

“Shark, did you hear that I finished a two month program? I’ve been sober for over five months.

“Congratulations, Loretta! I said. “You mentioned that you’re going back to school. When does that start?”

“In another month. I have to finish my grade twelve first, then I’m going to secretarial college.”

“Buck has quit smoking. He’s got two patches and a puffer. It’s been four days now.”

“Yeah,” said Shark, “I saw him this morning to buy some smokes. He told me all about it. He’s been sober four years, hasn’t he?”

“Five.”

“Good for him, ” said Shark. “I should quit smoking. It would save me a lot of money. Mind you, I’ve been saving money not buying diapers. I get a two hundred-dollar allowance for those. This morning, at Buck’s place I let a wet fart, I said, ‘Oh, oh, I better go home.'”

Loretta said, “Nothing a shower and a change of clothes can’t fix.

“I had his dog Dillinger all day yesterday. He loves to chase a ball.”

Shark said, “He can play with it all by himself. He bats it with his paw, then runs after it.

“What’s happening with that asshole you went out with?”

“He’s in detention now.”

“Has he been bothering you lately?”

“Not since they put the restraining order against him.” To me she said, “This all has to do with to when I was raped.  It’ll be a year ago July seventh.  I went to the hospital immediately after, so they have evidence and were able to charge him. There’s been a preliminary hearing. The official court date has been set for September.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to charge a guy with rape. At home it used to happen all the time.

“See what I made?” Loretta showed me a lighter that had a red, beaded cover. “A guy in the recovery program showed me how to do it. It’s made with seaweed beads and clear fishing line. I want to try to make cell phone covers.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, I read that horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I’d like it. I don’t know anything about horses. I always thought it was a sport for rich people;  but I didn’t have anything else, it was on the top shelf,  so I started reading. I really dove into it. I couldn’t put it down.  I had to find out who was killing the horses. Have you read the book?

“No, I haven’t read it.”

“Then you won’t mind me telling you that the vet was behind it. He was poisoning them. I wouldn’t give the book a first rank, but it was still good. I prefer the shoot-em-up detective kind.

“I’ve been sober for the past five days. Because of the rain, I didn’t feel like going out;  but after a while — even with the books — Shaggy and I get bored, so we come down here.  I don’t like everybody here. I told Jacques to fuck off the other day.

“Jacques, I’m sorry about the other day. Are we okay?”

Shamus  and Brent from the Innercity Ministries stopped by. “Would anybody like a sandwich?”

Shark said, “Yeah, I’ll take one. Do you have any razors? How about Chapstick, or lip gloss, or something like that. Irene wants me to get her some.”

Shamus said to Shakes, “How have you been?”

“I’ve been trapped in my apartment. I didn’t want to leave with the door unlocked,  so I had to stay there for two days.  I haven’t paid my cable bill, so I didn’t have television. I haven’t paid my phone bill so I didn’t have a phone. I had nothing.”

I asked,  “Did Sammy have your keys?”

“Yeah, Sammy had them. Yesterday he came back and apologized. He said, ‘I forgot I had your keys. I brought you a bottle.'”

I asked, “So, everything is good now?”

“Yeah, everything is good.”

 

 

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Clark and the Pigeons

panhandler

11 June 2013

This morning I sat beside Clark. He said, “I was told that Joy doesn’t use this spot when it’s raining, even though, with the overhang from the library, I’ve been able to keep quite dry.”

“That’s right,”  I said “Or for a while after check day.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Within minutes a dark-colored pigeon jumped up on Clark’s knee. He looked me up and down, from side to side, then hopped back down.”

“He seems friendly,” I said.

“Yeah, at my other spot I feed them. This is the alpha male. I’ve seen him mating with four or five of the females around here. That gray one over there is distinctive as well. Notice, she has only two toes on her left foot.”

I asked, “How do you think that happened — maybe a fight with a cat?”

“More likely a snare of some kind. I was talking to a lady who works at a bird sanctuary. She said they’ve noticed a lot of birds like this. They’ve yet to pinpoint where the snare is located, but they’re looking for it. They’d like to introduce a humane trap that wouldn’t injure the birds.

“A lot of restaurants serve it on their menu. Bought locally it goes for about three dollars a pound.”

I said, “You’ve mentioned that you’ve done tree planting in British Columbia. Would you rather live in the city or someplace in nature.”

“I’d far rather live in nature. Every time I come back to the city I can feel this wave of stress come over me. ”

I said,  “I have a small cabin that I get away to most weekends. It has no heat, electricity or running water.”

“Have you ever thought about solar power. They’ve done studies that show it’s much less expensive than hydro. They’ve developed a new  solar heat conduction vacuum tube in glass or metal. They’re also called evacuated heat pipes. You should give them a try.”

“I will.”

“I’ve heard that the government is cracking down on marijuana production.”

I said, “That seems silly, since people are licensed to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Why doesn’t the government just take over production. Then, there would be quality assurance and tax money coming in. With drugs on the street, you never know what you’re getting.”

“When I was tree planting a lot of guys used to grow pot or hallucinogenic mushrooms. They put the mushrooms into brownies. A guy from another camp came over, ate too many brownies, along with lots of liquor and nearly died.

“When I was in university I studied Psychology. I was mostly interested in Humanism.   That’s an ideology that promotes reason, ethics and justice, while specifically rejecting supernatural and religious ideas as a basis of morality and decision-making. It makes sense to me.”

I said, “I like to keep an open mind. I listen to all ideas; accepting the ones with merit, rejecting the others. I’ve developed my own personal philosophy.

 

 

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Bearded Bruce

English: 尖沙咀亞士厘道Subway (restaurant)
English: 尖沙咀亞士厘道Subway (restaurant) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10 June 2013

After leaving work I noticed Craig sitting in his usual spot on the sidewalk. I handed him a Subway card and he asked, “Is that change I hear jingling in your pocket?”

“No,” I said it’s keys. I never carry change.”

“I could sure use some change right now, but thanks for the card.”

On the next corner, sitting beside a Metro newspaper box was Bearded Bruce. When He saw me coming he opened the door of the box and pulled out a paper. “Have a seat, if you’ve got  a few minutes.”

I positioned the newspaper and sat down. “I haven’t seen you for a while, Bruce.” I handed him a Subway card.”

“What’s this, you used to hand out Tim Horton cards?”

“Joy requested a change of menu.”

“So, I’ve got her to blame for this. Next time I see her I’m going to demand my money back. Seriously, thanks for the card.

“I don’t go to the park much any more. It’s always the same people, they’re always whining the same things, and I’m trying to control my drinking. This is a drinking day. I was up there at noon, so was Little Jake, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Joy wasn’t there.”

“I haven’t seen Joy for a while.”

“She’s doing okay.”

“How is Jake?”

“Jake is Jake. He’s supposed to meet me here, then we’ll take the bus to my place. He asked if he could stay over. I told him, ‘Sure, man, I’ve got pork chops, chicken, anything you like.’ I’m guessing that he jumped the bus and is at my place waiting for me. What can I say? He’s not taking his meds. Sometimes he won’t even come over to my place because he knows I’m going to nag him about it.

“I got caught jumping the bus the other day. A security woman came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to have to put you in handcuffs.’ I said, ‘Look little girl, do you see the size of me, do you really think I’m going to let you put handcuffs on me? You’d better call for backup.’ So, two more security officers showed up. I said, ‘You caught me. I didn’t put in a ticket. That’s three dollars and fifty cents. I’ve got my Welfare check right here. I’m just trying to get downtown to cash it. If you like I’ll come back and put in two bus tickets. Do you think handcuffs are really necessary?’ They wrote me up a fine for a hundred and thirty-five dollars, then gave me a day pass. I said, ‘Don’t you think this is a bit foolish.  I’m not going to pay the fine, but if I get a day pass every time I jump the bus, I’m never going to put in a ticket. You’ll see me back here tomorrow.’

I asked, “doesn’t O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) cover bus passes?”

“I’m not on O.D.S.P. I have the papers filled out, my doctor’s signed them, buy I haven’t handed them in. I qualify, because of my back injury and my addictions, but I don’t think I deserve it. I feel I can get along without it. It’s just the way I am.

A gorgeous woman passed within a few inches of us, “Beautiful!” She turned and gave each of us a warm smile, then moved on.

“Sometimes,” said Bruce, “I think I have the best job in the world.”

I said, “Sometimes, Bruce, you do.”

“I got a real scare the other day. said Bruce, “I thought I was having a heart attack. I got dizzy, I had tingling in my left arm and leg. I phoned an ambulance for myself. The lady on the line said, ‘Just go home and rest. We’ll pick you up at your house.’ I said, ‘I’m at a pay phone, this is where I’m having a heart attack. I can’t go to my house. I can barely stand.’ ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘wait there and we’ll have an ambulance pick you up.’

They took me to hospital and checked my heart. It was okay, but my blood pressure was through the roof. They gave me some medicine, then a doctor put on some rubber gloves and put his finger up my bum. I’ve had that before, but I said, ‘My heart’s over here. What are you doing back there?’ They checked on me in about forty-five minutes and asked me how I was doing. I said, ‘I feel fine.’ The medicine must have done the trick. I know my stomach’s bad. I haven’t been taking care of myself. Next week I have to go in for a gastroscopy, that’s where they put a tube down your throat to see your insides.’

“The doctor said, ‘Bruce, you’re going to have to quit smoking, drinking and eating fat. I told him, ‘I can use a patch to help me quit smoking. I’ve got the drinking under control, that’s not a problem, but there’s no way I’m giving up fat. I fry everything in bacon fat. Every time I cook a mess of bacon, I pour off the fat and store it in a can in the fridge. No, sir, I’m not giving up fat.’ ”

I said, “These people walking by, they don’t even look at us.”

“I know,” said Bruce, “it’s like we’re invisible, or else they’re blind. I wonder if they’re deaf as well? If I said, ‘There goes an ignorant asshole!’ Do you think he’d hear me? I do that sometimes, but it doesn’t get me any money. Usually, if it’s a woman,  I say, ‘You’re looking good this evening.’  If it’s a guy I say, ‘Good evening, sir.’ I’m usually polite.

There was a man with a bicycle waiting for the ‘walk’ light. Bruce said to him, “How’s it going, man?”

The guy said, “It’s been a long day.”

Bruce said, “It’s been a long day for me too. I was out here at six this morning, and I’m still here, nearly thirteen hours later. Don’t you think that deserves a bit of change?” The guy pushed his bike across the street.

I asked, “Do you know Craig, down the block?”

“Sure I know Craig. We’ve slept together. I don’t man together, but we’ve both slept on the street near each other, if you know what I mean.

“Of the three fights I’ve gotten into, he was the cause of them all. People think he’s stupid, but he’s not. One day some guys walked past him and kicked over his cup. He was scrambling around, chasing this change when I came up. I said, Greg, do you have the twenty you owe me? He pulled all the change out of his pocket and gave it to me.  Then I said to the guys, ‘Now what the fuck do you want? If it’s what I’ve got in my pocket, you’re going to have to go through me.’ The police arrived and I had to go to court. I told the prosecuting attorney exactly what happened and he agreed with me. Case closed. There was another time though, that I had to serve three months. That’s when I was still drinking heavy. It wouldn’t take much to set me off.

Bruce said to me, “You’re too well dressed to be a panhandler.”

I said, “I could always say to people, ‘I’m trying to top up my R.R.S.P. (Registered Retirement Savings Plan).”

“Yeah, that would work.”

 

 

 

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Migrant

MigrantPOSTED ON DECEMBER 7, 2015Traveling by railway we follow seasonal harvests across the country, our   bodies huddled in the freezing box car.  Maria gave birth to a baby boy on the cold floor.  We are not Hoboes, not homeward bound. We are seeking work, we are used to hardship.The sting of citrus scents the air. At times it is so quiet in the fields the thud of rotting fruit can be heard when it reaches the earth.  There is little conversation, the crop overseer keeps a close eye and the threat of being reported undocumented is as real as a bull whip.Maria has strung a sheet separating the cots in the one room shed we share with another family.  Their children lie on a pallet on the unheated floor; they fall asleep to the sounds of copulation.  Perhaps someday they will have a door to close.I  awaken before dawn and join the men and abled bodied women waiting at the corner where the grove owner will select the workers he will take to the fields.  I have brought my gloves; Today I feel  I will be one of the  chosen.  Yesterday I went home empty handed.It frightens me to see Maria so frail, her skin barely covering her brittle bones and  her dark  fists of fear eyes. Her milk drying up with the rest of her,  the baby cries.  I worry for myself. If she dies I don’t know what will happen to the child.  Just the two of us, I know I can’t do it. This morning her desperate eyes stare into mine. I look away from the hunger and fear. She knows  if she dies I will leave the boy behind.  Inside my boot I  feel the imprint of the stolen knife blade against my ankle. This morning I take my desperation with me.  Today I must do something.

Source: Migrant

Shaggy’s Christmas

 

homeless family L

5 June 2013

It was a wonderful day in the park today as, I suppose, it was in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. The usual suspects were there. I shook hands all around.  Wolf said, “Id get up, Dennis, but you know me. It’s one of those days.

I was about to sit down between Wolf and Gaston when Yves handed me a Metro newspaper. “Sit on this, it’ll keep your pants clean.” I said, “Thanks Yves.”

Gaston said, “Now, isn’t that a lot softer?”

“Yes, it is.”

Wolf said, “I’ve got something even better.” He reached into Shaggy’s cart and pulled out a thick, folded blanket. “Try this. I just got it this morning, rather Shaggy just got it this morning. A lady — maybe it was the Christmas lady for dogs — she brought a big bag filled with the blanket, a toy rubber boot, a stuffed dog and dog food, lots of dog food. Shaggy really  hit the jackpot. She gave me something too. I think I spent it.”

“This blanket is really soft and comfortable. Thanks.”

Wolf said, “This morning when I woke up, the first thing I saw was a six-pack of beer, so that’s when I started. If I hadn’t seen it I would have been alright, but if I see it I drink it. That’s why I’m the way I am now. You understand?

“Dennis,  tell those fucking Frenchmen to shut the fuck up! I’m having trouble concentrating. Let them go ahead and mumble to themselves.

In unison Gaston and Yves said, “Ta Gueule!, colis, tabarnac.”

Jacques said, “Wolf speaks  perfect French, he just doesn’t like to use it.”

Wolf said, “I’m German not French!  Don’t make me get up!”  He laughed, then continued conversing with them in fluent French.

I said to Wolf, “You couldn’t get up if you tried.”

“I know,” he said, “I just like to stir the shit sometimes.”

I asked Jacques, “How are you liking your new apartment?”

“I love it. Did you know I have a balcony? Yesterday I bought a mattress, a futon. I think that is the good one. I don’t buy the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. I bought the next one up.  Me, I don’t like the coil mattress, because after a year, you get one coil sticking through into your back. I don’t want that.  In my other place I had been sleeping on the floor for the last four months, and I had no window.  This place is nice, and I can brew my wine again.

“It used to be that they would give you a start-up allowance when you moved and every three years,  but not any more. I had to pay for the mattress myself. I don’t mind.”

Shamus and Judy from  Innercity Outreach approached. They were wearing red vests with the crest of their organization embroidered in yellow. They had brought sandwiches, socks and a variety of other things to hand out.

Judy said, “Wolf, what kind of sandwich would you like? We have egg, minced ham and tuna.”

“This is my drinking day, not my eating day,” said Wolf. “I’m a shaving guy. Do you have any razors?

“No, sorry , Wolf.”

Jacques said, “I’ll take an egg, and leave me a minced ham for Wolf.  He’ll eat it later. Can I have some socks?” Judy handed socks to Jacques, Shakes and Wolf.

Shamus said to me, “Dennis it looks like you’re holding court.”

I said, “It may look that way, but Jacques is King”

Jacques said, “Shakes is King.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll go along with that.”

Judy asked, “Has anybody seen Serge? We haven’t seen him for a long time. I know he was in hospital, but then he was out.”

I said, “I visited him a couple of times in hospital, but he escaped, in his hospital gown. He was too sick and was taken back to hospital.”

Jacques said, “I was talking to Greg from 507. He got a message saying that Serge passed away April 7th. Nobody knew, otherwise we would have gone to the funeral.”

Judy asked, “He had cancer, didn’t he.”

I said, “I’m not sure. He didn’t talk much and when he talked it was in French.”

Judy said, “I hear that Outcast is in remission. Is that right?”

I said, “I knew that he had lung cancer. I didn’t hear that he was in remission.”

Jacques said, “I saw him a few days ago. He seems fine. He doesn’t come here any more.”

“How about Joy? How is she.?”

I said, I saw her Thursday, she seemed fine then.”

After they left Jacques said, “They gave me all these bars that I can’t eat. I don’t have enough teeth for things with nuts.”

Shakes said, “You, know, Dennis, I’ve known Wolf since ’95. I’ve always called him Pudding, because he looks like a pudding. I’m the one that got Bowser for him. He looks like Shaggy, but he’s stuffed. I remember bringing him home on the bus. I barked and pretended that he was going to bite people. Now, he sits on Pudding’s balcony.”

“Yeah,” said  Wolf, “People will say they passed my place, I must have been home because the dog was there, but he wasn’t barking.

“Shaggy loves Bowser, they lay beside each other all the time. One time when it was raining Shaggy went out on the balcony, grabbed Bowser with her teeth and brought her inside the living room. Isn’t that something?”

Wolf said, “Dennis, we should pick on you for a while.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

“I was going to get Shaggy to bite Jacques, but you’ve got some meat on your arms.  Shaggy, bite Dennis! She won’t bite you, she likes you.”

Shaggy wandered around and lay next to me, her warm side pressing against mine. I petted her. After being freshly clipped she felt like velvet.

 

 

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